Wednesday, June 14, 2006

My favorite part of the World Cup so far . . .

. . . is not the US rout by the Czech Republic. If you read my post below, you know I wanted them to do well. And England hardly fared better, winning off an own-goal by Paraguay (off a cracker Becks kick, I know, but still: I'm expecting them to blow their group lead in their match against Trinidad & Tobago, and five bucks -- pounds? loonies? -- says it's Gary Neville who blows it. You heard it here first).

No, you know I am no corporate shill, but I am just loving the Adidas Jose + 10 ads. They start as so many kids athletics -- or Barbie, or sandbox, or train -- diversions do, with two kids selecting the sides for their fantasy teams. "'Zidane!' 'Beckham!' "etc. In the commercial(s), however, the players the kids choose actually (and bemusedly) turn up in the flesh (so to speak), in the sandy littered courtyard where Jose and his opponent apparently live. With their rosters complete, the diminutive Jose and his slightly portly friend then square off, amid hanging laundry, and bark orders in Spanish (no se habla ingles aqui) at their multimillionaire international starters.

I especially love the part when Jose's chubby opponent -- will he get a name, I hope? -- rolls his neck and cracks his shoulders in preparation for the match, just before Jose gets the first touch at midfield. "Cuatro cuatro dos!" Chubby shouts (Four four two! -- a standard soccer line-up). "Listos?!" (Ready?!) Then the match begins. And a fun match it is (so far), with the ball careening off walls and abandoned automobiles, and the players having to defer to the imperious authority of their pre-adolescent player-coaches ("Soy capitan! [I'm the captain!]).

A German company, Adidas already stands to do well from the fact that the World Cup is taking place in the homeland this year. But where Adidas has also outflanked Nike in this ad is in connecting the joy of playing -- and watching -- soccer to two kids as unlikely to attend the World Cup as my elderly Auntie Claire. In particular, where the Nike ads focus on the childlike exuberance of World Cup players (Ronaldinho, Wayne Rooney), these ads go from the opposite angle, showing the devotion of two unknown, but no less inspired, youngster footballers, and enlisting professionals to play in their world. It's a pretty captivating fantasy.

Of course, what Adidas has also done is create a narrative that illustrates that each match tells a story -- and, in all honesty at this point, I am more excited to find out who wins -- and how, and why -- in Jose's match, than finding out who wins the next crop of World Cup fixtures! Pathetic, I know (especially given the ad's class politics), but's it's damn fun viewing. They got me.

I found a link to it here (and forgive me the flatulence, not my idea):

Cuatro cuatro dos! Listos!

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